Legal charity Reprieve has called on the British government to make up for failing Naheem Hussain and Rehan Zaman by intervening immediately to prevent the use of ‘torture evidence’ at their trial.
A Reprieve statement said: ‘Naheem and Rehan were arrested in June 2004 in Pakistan and were subjected to medieval torture by the local police, forcing them to confess.
‘Their families contacted the British High Commission in Pakistan within a week, but no action was taken to stop this torture until after they had been transferred out of the police station.
‘When Reprieve raised this case in March, the FCO stated that the reason they had not acted was because they had been advised not to by the men’s lawyer.
‘However, internal emails released under the Freedom of Information Act have shown that they did not even talk to this lawyer until three months after they had been arrested. They now accept that it should not have taken this long.
‘The simple facts are that these two British men confessed to a crime because of their torture, and this now forms the basis of the prosecution’s case against them, in a murder trial at which they face the death penalty.
‘Had the British government intervened immediately upon being informed of the torture, it is highly probable that the torture would have stopped and the subsequent confessions would not have been made.
‘For the last five years, Naheem and Rehan have been in Mir Pur prison, living in fear of the death penalty – a length of time that a UK court has ruled amounts to “cruel and intolerable”.
‘Both men have endured this intolerable strain, and Reprieve fears for the psychological toll this has taken on them.
‘A psychological report on Rehan suggests that he may be suffering from the “death row phenomena” the name given to the cumulative psychological effect of all the individual factors that can cause mental anguish for those on death row.
‘Now Reprieve is asking the FCO to take steps immediately to remedy this terrible injustice.
‘Gordon Brown needs to personally raise this case with President Zadari of Pakistan and insist that the trial (which has already heard the confession evidence) be halted and they immediately receive a fair trial in which no evidence extracted under torture is heard.’
Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith said: ‘Sadly, Foreign Office assurances about the future will not help Naheem and Rehan, who have just spent their fifth year in prison without trial.
‘What is the government actually going to do for these men, who have already suffered so much?
‘Prime Minister Gordon Brown must ask President Zadari to immediately halt the case against Naheem and Rehan, and give them a new trial in which no evidence extracted by torture is heard.
‘Anything less is a failure of the Foreign Office’s duty to British citizens abroad, and a breach of their legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture.’
Reprieve’s Casework Lawyer Marc Callcutt said: ‘Naheem and Rehan needed the help of the British government when they were being tortured by the police.
‘Instead, what happened was that the Foreign Office embarked in months of internal discussions on what was an appropriate response.
‘As a result, they were coerced into giving confessions and were transferred to Mir Pur prison where they have been held under the threat of the death penalty for five years.
‘The British government has not only allowed two young British lads to face a week of brutal physical torture, but has also condemned them to a further five years of mental torture; locked up in prison fearing the death penalty.
‘Gordon Brown needs to take immediate action to make up for the years of inaction and neglect.’
Reprieve’s Death Penalty Legal Director Sally Rowen said: ‘How can the government stand up and say that they oppose torture, and then do nothing to stop it when it happens?
‘This case demonstrates a terrible failing by the Foreign Office and the Prime Minister needs to intervene urgently to end Naheem and Rehan’s suffering as soon as possible.’
Outlining the case background, Reprieve said:
‘The case against Naheem and Rehan is extraordinarily weak and stems from a dispute concerning Naheem’s family land in Pakistan.
‘Naheem’s father, Fazal, was born and raised on this family land in the village of Ratta, in Azad-Kashmir. When Fazal moved to the UK, where he spent his working life as a small-business owner in Birmingham, he left the land in the care of his step-sister.
‘Many years later Fazal retired and returned to the village, taking his son Naheem with him.
‘Confusion arose about the ownership of the family land; Fazal gathered documentation and called a family meeting.
‘Shortly before the meeting two family members – Fazal’s step-sister’s husband and her son – were both shot.
‘The police arrested Fazal, Naheem and Naheem’s friend Rehan Zaman. The police said the land dispute provided the men with a motive, while Fazal and Naheem believe they were set up in an attempt to take the land.
‘Strong evidence suggests that Naheem and Rehan are not guilty. At Didyal police station, the police beat Naheem savagely and jumped on his stomach with boots on; Fazal and Rehan heard him screaming through the walls.
‘When Naheem failed to confess, the police tortured all three men relentlessly for two weeks, frequently beating Naheem and Fazal in front of each other, which both father and son found particularly distressing.
‘Techniques used included falaka (whipping the foot with a rod or cane rendering them unable to walk), “inverse strappado” (being hung from a hook and kicked and punched repeatedly, causing shoulders to dislocate), cigarettes extinguished on their skin and fingernails pulled out.
‘Others involved ropes used to pull their legs apart and wood turned like a garrotte to effectively paralyse the legs. The men frequently passed out and water was thrown on them until they revived.
‘The police also threatened to simply shoot them, explaining to Rehan that they would get away with it because they would claim that they tried to escape.
‘After two weeks, Naheem and Rehan were taken to a graveyard and told to confess; they were told that Naheem’s wife and mother – and Rehan’s 80-year-old grandmother – would be arrested and tortured.
‘Two guns had been planted in the graveyard, which the men were forced to identify as the murder weapons; later ballistics testing proved that these guns could not have been used in the crimes.
‘Meanwhile Fazal also cracked; the police were threatening to nail Naheem to a tree. Desperate to see his son’s suffering end, Faisal wrote the Police Chief a cheque for over £10,000 and signed a “confession” stating that he had instigated the murders.
‘Naheem was also forced to sign a document, although he was unable to read it as it was written in Urdu.
‘Having obtained their “evidence”, the police transferred all three men to Mir Pur prison; en route, the six policemen insisted that they stop off at a hotel for a large meal and forced Fazal to pay.
‘Later, the driver confronted Fazal’s family, demanding 2,500 rupees for having driven the transfer van.
‘In Mir Pur prison, Fazal’s weight dropped by more than half to around six stone and when he became too weak to walk he was granted bail due to his ill health.
‘Diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, Fazal returned to Birmingham to receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
‘Five years later, life in Mir Pur is very hard for Naheem and Rehan. Naheem shares a 30 foot by 15 foot cell with about 40 other prisoners and Rehan has shown signs of deep depression.
Both men miss their families greatly and request reading materials that remind them of the UK; Naheem is currently reading Harry Potter and Rehan enjoys National Geographic.’